The King's Whore

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama, Historical

Director Axel Corti's followup to his acclaimed 1986 WELCOME IN VIENNA was filmed in 1990 and sneaked into the U.S. as video release in early 1993, and it is no buried treasure. A costume epic set in 17th-century Italy, it features British Timothy Dalton as an Italian king smitten with Italian Valeria Golino as a French countess in a British-Italian-French-Austrian...read more

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Director Axel Corti's followup to his acclaimed 1986 WELCOME IN VIENNA was filmed in 1990 and sneaked into the U.S. as video release in early 1993, and it is no buried treasure. A costume epic set in 17th-century Italy, it features British Timothy Dalton as an Italian king smitten with

Italian Valeria Golino as a French countess in a British-Italian-French-Austrian co-production that proves as baffling as its casting and as fractured as its lineage.

On the cusp of poverty after providing dowries for her sisters, the family of Jeanne de Luynes (Golino) is about to commit her to a convent. Salvation arrives in the form of Count Alessandro Di Verua (Stephane Freiss); the two fall in love, marry, and move to the Italian court, where Alessandro

is chamberlain to Vittorio Amadeo (Dalton), King of Piedmont. Jeanne shocks the jaded court with her sincere devotion to her new husband; most shocked is the King, who becomes obsessed with conquering the countess. He sends Alessandro on a bogus secret mission; Alessandro consents, though he's

aware of the King's intentions. Jeanne spurns the King, who falls into such a funk that he's unable to carry on the business of state. The wives of the court--even the Queen herself (Eleanor David)--plead with Jeanne to reconsider, but only when she senses that her own husband wishes her to become

the King's mistress does she go ahead with the affair, making those who have driven her to infidelity pay terrible prices.

She has her husband's family stripped of their property and exiled, while insisting that he remain to be constant witness to her faithlessness. She counsels the King to dismiss and banish his most trusted advisors, and pushes him into war with France. The King is defeated, in part because he

neglects his duties to nurse Jeanne through a bout with smallpox. Reconciling with her husband, Jeanne plans to escape with him to France, but when they're caught at the border, Alessandro sacrifices himself to allow Jeanne to escape. A sword fight with the King leaves Alessandro dead and the King

a paraplegic. At great risk to herself, Jeanne returns to Italy to be reunited with the monarch. But he has just transferred power to his spiteful son, and warns Jeanne that to remain will endanger her life. She takes his advice and, before she is out of the palace, soldiers enter the King's

chamber and assassinate him.

THE KING'S WHORE has the makings of a lusty period saga, but this multi-national production seems to have been a runaway train over which Corti was able to maintain only limited control. Apparently trimmed by 25 minutes for its American video release, WHORE careens along nonsensically, leaving

in its wake numerous unanswered questions about plot, characters, and even historical context. It's never quite clear with whom or what Jeanne's allegiances lie; she seems at various times a self-centered manipulator, a vengeful hellion, a scheming foreign agent, and a misunderstood pawn of fate.

The casting only adds to the confusion. Dalton proves almost as out of place here as an Italian King as Tom "Magnum P.I." Selleck did as Spanish King Ferdinand in CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, and it takes half the film to get used to the very Italian Golino's whining that she wants to return home to

Paris.

Only very occasionally do the notable sensibilities behind the cameras--including Daniel Vigne and Frederic Raphael, who co-scripted with Corti--make themselves felt. Early on, an extraordinary sequence visually equates Jeanne's panic at the thought of being sent to the convent with that of a

fox trapped in her home, which is cornered and torn apart by the family's hunting dogs. But such moments of inspiration are too few and far between in what is more typically a more intelligent than average but nonetheless hopeless muddle of an epic. (Adult situations, violence, nudity.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Director Axel Corti's followup to his acclaimed 1986 WELCOME IN VIENNA was filmed in 1990 and sneaked into the U.S. as video release in early 1993, and it is no buried treasure. A costume epic set in 17th-century Italy, it features British Timothy Dalton a… (more)

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